Two words: BO-RING! Don't confuse wealth of detail with depth of play. The game has hundreds of different spells and units -- but who cares when you can't actually use them? Dominions 4 ultimately revolves *entirely* around combat, but combat is always resolved automatically. At best you're a spectator, but after watching a dozen or so battles with a new faction to get a feel for what combination of units works well, you probably won't even bother with that.
And without the ability to participate in combat, there just isn't that much to do. Despite the creative and well-researched styles particular to each of the many playable factions, no matter which faction you choose, gameplay quickly degenerates into a tedious slog of building units, moving them to the front, and throwing them into combat. Build, move, repeat.
Plus, the game doesn't have any personality -- there are no quests, no dialogue, no diplomacy. I'm a big fan of 4X games, but it's been a long time since I owned one that was so much like playing a spreadsheet.
I never thought I'd feel compelled to defend my opinion of a video game, but here I am.
I *really* wanted to like this game. I'm a grognard. Name a strategy game, and I've probably played it -- even going back to the days of board games with thousands of little cardboard counters. So I was actually as excited as a puppy when I read that Dominions 4 has a 400 page manual. Most strategy games don't even have manuals any more -- it had to have incredible depth! Well, I'm sorry, but it does not. It has a lot of *content*, but that is not the same thing.
I'm aware the game has features like combat scripting and magic items, but they didn't warrant mention in my original review because ultimately they don't affect the *experience* provided by the game. For example, you can craft a magic sword and equip your army commander with it, but the only difference that makes is that when you read the next battle report, your army's losses might be 10% less. If that's your idea of fun, good for you, but I stand by my assessment of this game as a playable spreadsheet. This applies at both the tactical and strategic levels.
At the tactical level, Dominions is two or three *decades* behind the times. Consider the King's Bounty franchise: like Dominions, those games also feature lots of different units, spells and magic items; but unlike Dominions, you can actually *use* them in combat, where they have obvioiusly differing, tangible effects. What's more, you can *see* these effects via their superb unit and spell animations and sound effects. In fact, I'd argue that "despite" its vastly superior graphics and sound, King's Bounty is also a vastly superior combat simulation. Even if you're OK with Dominions simulating combat for you (and I don't see why you should be), there's just no way its brain-dead AI is going to do a tenth as good a job as you could, regardless of any "scripting" you might do.
For example, in King's Bounty, equipping your character with a magic item that increases the effects of fire magic, pumping up his combat magic abilities, and then hurling a maxxed out fireball spell at a group of enemies you've bunched up behind a barrier has a very obvious and visceral impact. Building your army to achieve that is every bit as tactical as the nearest equivalent in Dominions 4 -- and about 1000 times more satisfying. In fact, combat resolution in Dominions is the most boring I've seen in a game since Risk. And that's a problem, because this game is entirely focused on combat.
Likewise, if grand strategy is your thing, Dominions is nowhere near the state of the art, which I would say is currently exemplified by the Europa Universalis franchise. In EU4 different nations really *do* play very differently, and you actually *do* have the option of pursuing many different strategies that make real differences both in how the game plays and in the outcomes you get. Maybe I'm missing something, but Dominions 4 hardly seems to have a strategic element to it at all. For all their different "background flavor", the different factions ultimately play virtually the same way. It really makes no difference whether your armies are composed of human swordsmen or giant hydras, whether your spellcasters specialize in blood magic or fire magic, whether your faction likes heat or cold or even lives underwater -- the only "strategy" you can pursue in this game is universal conquest, and the only strategic-level decisions to make are the order in which you attack enemy provinces.
As I already noted, there's some slight interest in choosing the best unit combinations for your army, but it's not that hard -- in fact it's mostly a rather tedious chore of comparing unit statistics -- and once you do that you don't ever have to bother looking at them again. Once you've chosen units A, B and C for your army, regardless of your faction it then boils down to "build 5 of A, 3 of B, and 6 of C" every turn, stacking them up, throwing them at the enemy, and then *reading* the combat results. Put all that together, and Dominions barely even *qualifies* as a strategy game. It certainly doesn't excel at it.
The final page of the tutorial highlights just what I dislike about this game. It gives the example of how, if you want to invade a sea territory, you need to "plan ahead": you must first research construction magic until you know how to forge a ring of water breathing; and you also need a mage with sufficient skill to forge it; and you need enough magic gems to perform the construction; and then when it's all ready you give the ring to your army commander. This all sounded very exciting when I read it, but then when I did it, it was just colossally dull. There's no substance to any of these steps, and no payoff when it's been achieved. The game looks and plays looks exactly like it did before, except now you can move that leader into water provinces. Whoopee.
I can see how this game would lend itself to multiplayer/PBEM, if you're into that sort of thing, but I'm not, and sadly, the single player experience is as bland and lifeless as any game I've ever played. Above any other considerations, a *game* should be *fun*, and Dominions 4 just isn't.